U.S. Secretary of State meets Ethiopia’s prime minister

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the Prime Minister office after a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia February 18, 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Ethiopia’s reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other officials on Tuesday on a visit expected to focus on security, investment and Ethiopia’s dispute with U.S. ally Egypt.

Abiy welcomed Pompeo and his wife on their arrival then they went into lunch.

Their talks are expected to focus on security concerns ahead of Ethiopian elections this year, investment opportunities as Abiy opens up the economy to foreign investment, and a dispute the United States has been trying to mediate between Ethiopia and Egypt over Ethiopia’s giant Blue Nile hydropower dam.

Abiy took power in 2018 following years of anti-government protests. He freed political prisoners, won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending a long-running conflict with neighbouring Eritrea, and has begun liberalising sectors of the state-run economy.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, has long been an ally of the United States but the difficulty of doing business in its sluggish and bureaucratic economy has discouraged foreign investment.

Abiy has promised to liberalise the telecoms and banking sectors but this year he is likely to be occupied with elections scheduled for Aug. 29.

His reforms, while applauded abroad, have also unleashed simmering ethnic and political tensions at home as regional powerbrokers jockey for position. More than 2 million of Ethiopia’s 109 million citizens have been displaced, according to the United Nations.

Pompeo is on the second leg of a tour that has already taken him to Germany, Senegal and Angola. His visit comes as some African governments are questioning U.S. President Donald Trump’s commitment to their continent.